Dr Cathy Milligan - Supervising in the South West

Find out what it's really like taking on registrars in a rural town.

It is not a hard task to attract GP registrars to the Margaret River Surgery. Located in the South West wine growing region of Western Australia, the practice is surrounded by many natural amenities.

However, for the 23 registrars that have undergone training at the Margaret River Surgery, the location offers a great opportunity to practice and develop a broad range of medical skills, including procedural, obstetrics, anesthetics and emergency medicine.
Dr Cathy Milligan, with fellow supervisor Dr Ray Clarke, has been welcoming trainee GPs into the large group practice for the past 10 years. The practice currently has three registrars in training. Cathy believes that the addition of registrars has been positive for both the incumbent team of 13 doctors and the business as a whole.
"Not only is it very helpful to attract young doctors to the practice, having registrars around – fresh from university and big teaching hospitals – helps maintain our freshness and keeps us up to date," Cathy said. “They improve the breadth and depth of the practice, and often the young doctors stay on, which boosts the local medical workforce."

Cathy, who first moved from Perth to the Margaret River region 19 years ago, believes that the region is a rich location for a registrar seeking to attain a broad base of skills.

“We do on call at the hospital, emergency care, in-patient care, travel medicine, obstetrics, anesthetics, all within a friendly group practice,” she said. “Plus it is a lovely place to live.”

She believes that the addition of registrars into the Margaret River Surgery has been vital to the sustainability of its workforce.

“The young doctors coming through are critical to our workforce, and if you get them on board early and are part of their training, they are more likely to stay on,” she said.
The role of supervising registrars need not be arduous or time consuming, according to Cathy.

"There is no didactic teaching at all, and usually involves discussion, corridor consultations, sitting in or reviewing topics," she said. "Physical supervision while consulting is infrequent.”

Cathy said the demands of being a supervisor include setting aside time once a week for educational sessions.

“During the first two terms we have regular sessions but after that I let the registrars guide me as to how they want to run it,” Cathy said.

There is no shortage of registrars wishing to gain experience at the Margaret River Surgery, given the appeal of the region and increasing numbers of GP registrars.

“The number of registrars has been going up over the past couple of years, so we have been spoilt for choice,” she said. “Almost everyone who has applied we could have offered a job.”

Cathy said when she is looking to take on a registrar she looked for applicants that are interested in obtaining a broad base of skills, that already have an existing grounding in a good mix of jobs and who are resilient and confident.

“We want to attract people who can work confidently in, what can be at times, a difficult and isolating job."

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